I have to admit, I was expecting to be given a few more warnings or perhaps a few tips on what to do in a certain situation.
But no, all I got was “please sign here”. I presumed it’d be fine, entering Addo National elephant park, the third biggest national park in South Africa and home to the so called “big 5″ game animals.
“Stay in your vehicle at all times”
The biggest problem we’d have in our lovely blue bubble of a hire car (Nissan Micra!?) would probably be some cheeky band of monkeys bouncing all over the car and chewing on windscreen wipers, I thought. However, this wasn’t Knowsley Safari Park. There were much bigger animals roaming the park and the most obvious instructions on the warning signs seemed to be to “stay in your vehicle at all times”.
We turned a sharp corner and were confronted with a huge elephant who was being photographed like a A list celebrity. The huge animal was dwarfing a tiny silver Polo car. We slowly crept forward, not too close, but near enough to get a decent shot with a zoom lens. Milene took the camera and starting taking photos, it was an impressive sight. The one thing that struck me was the size of its head, seeing these creatures roaming around at will is quite humbling.
Up close with a adult elephant
I thought the huge beast would probably just plod on by, perhaps slowing or even stopping so we could get the perfect shot. But our amazement suddenly turned to fear as the elephant abruptly changed his course, the docile look in his eyes that was there earlier seemed to have vanished.
I asked Milene to stop taking photos and not to make any sound as my heart start thumping out of my chest. As the fully grown adult elephant headed straight towards our passenger door I remembered the signs around the park of cars being tipped over by an elephant and warnings of not getting too close. But what do you do when the elephant gets close to you? The first thing you notice when an elephants coming straight towards you are how big the tusks are and how powerful this creature is.
Incredible but frightening experience
We sat perfectly still for what seemed like a long time but was probably only seconds before I realised the car engine was still running. Just as the elephants head filled the view out of the passenger window and his body cast a huge shadow over our tiny Nissan Micra he turned his head away and plodded on by brushing the car as he went with his tail. Perhaps he was bemused by the sound of the car engine or just wanted a closer look at us? Either way it was an incredible if not slightly frightening experience.